VALLEY PATRIOT OF THE MONTH
This month, The Valley Patriot honors and recognizes Lowell resident John MacDonald not just for his service to the country as a military veteran, but also because of his tremendous work helping our veterans here at home.
John MacDonald enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1989 and was initially stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona.
A year later he would find himself deployed to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield.
MacDonald was stationed at King Khalid military city about 20 miles from Kuwait/Saudi border, and just a few miles from the famous highway to hell. There, he was part of a firefighting unit tasked with saving and retrieving crashed American and allied pilots as they lifted off and landed from the base.
Within the first month or two of arriving in the Middle East, MacDonald’s unit was awarded the best fire department in Air Force.
“We were the most forward operating location in Saudi Arabia. It was a place where international allied troops were constantly flying in and out,” MacDonald told The Valley Patriot.
All the Iraqi and foreign prisoners of war were brought to the base and held until a final determination can be made.
MacDonald says that F16’s come through on a regular basis, and eventually his unit was turned into a MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital).
When MacDonald came back from the Middle East he brought back with him, a good conduct medal, national defense ribbon, Kuwaiti defense ribbon, outstanding service with valor, and the short tour ribbon.
MacDonald says that Iraqi SCUD missiles were fired at his base all the time and recounted how he was eating “chow” one afternoon when he saw a PATRIOT missile take out one of the Iraqi SCUDS headed for his location.
“It’s funny, when we came back from the Middle East, the first people to greet us at the airport were the Vietnam Vets. It was amazing that these guys, men who were spit on and called baby killers, and never got the welcome home they deserved, they were the ones standing there for the next generation of soldiers coming home from battle.” MacDonald said.
It was then, that he says, he realized more needed to be done here at home for our veterans, in particular the Vietnam vets.
Last month MacDonald, one of the original board members of Veterans Assisting Veterans, organized an official “Welcome Home” concert for Vietnam Veterans at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium where they raised thousands of dollars for local veterans’ causes.
VETERANS ASSISTING VETERANS
The VAV is a group of veterans that volunteer their time to assist their fellow vets. MacDonald said he got involved because our veterans today are “not being treated much better by our government than the Vietnam vets were when they came home.”
“I was sick of reading so many stories of how the government was screwing over our vets at the VA. They still aren’t getting the help they need. I saw so many guys coming back, in rough shape. Many of us were involved in other veteran organizations that just didn’t suit us. There were too many things going on, and not a lot of actually helping our vets. Our mission at VAV is to raise money and help as many local vets as we can . What’s made us successful is that 100% of what we raise goes directly to local veterans.”
MacDonald says that VAV is more effective because there’s very little paperwork and they are able to react to things right away. “We vet out individuals who need the help. We determine if they are worthy of us spending money, and once we do, we go out and service their needs.”
Two months ago Veterans Assisting Veterans, in cooperation with New England Veteran’s Liberty House, found out that a WWII veteran in Lawrence was about to lose his home because he couldn’t pay his mortgage.
MacDonald, along with JT Torres and other veteran volunteers went to his house, cleaned it, and then gave him a check for the balance of his mortgage.
MacDonald is also a big supporter of police and spoke at pro police rallies sponsored by The Valley Patriot in 2015 and 2016. At the recent Welcome Home Vietnam Vets benefit concert he gave an award to the Lowell police for their bravery in keeping the citizens of Lowell safe.
With all that going on, MacDonald and his group, Veterans Assisting Veterans has been able to place POW/MIA Chairs at Cawley Stadium in Lowell, the Veteran’s Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, and many others, so those who did not come back will never be forgotten.
Each Year, VAV sponsors a black tie Gala in Burlington to raise money for their programs, and honor the medical corps units of each branch of government.
For these reason and so many more, The Valley Patriot honors and recognizes Lowell resident and hero veteran John MacDonald as our Valley Patriot of the Month.